Review: Spiritual Poison ‘Incorporeal’

From the grindcore brutality of Clinging To The Trees Of A Forest Fire, Death Of Self and Vermin Womb to the death/black metal of Withered, the despairing sludge of Primitive Man and the harsh noise of Many Blessings, Ethan McCarthy sure is prolific. A new project, Spiritual Poison, was spawned over Covid and sees another outlet for his creative talents. Incorporeal marks the project’s full-length debut following on from 2022’s Cub Eats Fawn I–VI split with Thorn Bug and also 2021’s Remote Viewing single.

Spiritual Poison 'Incorporeal' Artwork
Spiritual Poison ‘Incorporeal’ Artwork

If you were expecting something overwhelmingly heavy and gritty (which judging by his previous work you’d have a right to expect), then you may be a little surprised as to quote McCarthy himself ‘I wanted to make a record that’s the opposite of everything I’ve usually put out’ and one ‘relying on harmony instead of dissonance’. As the project’s name implies, the theme of spirituality is present so that ‘If you’re rotten spiritually, you’re unable to be good to people or decent to yourself’, is highlighted yet further with the album’s title, that according to Collins’ dictionary definition refers to ‘not consisting of matter/without material body or substance’. You get the general gist.

Summon possesses a sense of claustrophobia despite McCarthy promising a somewhat ‘lighter’ listening affair but is more tension-led than the ear-bleeding Merzbow style excursions of Many Blessings. It’s the kind of dark ambience you’d expect to find soundtracking Jonathan Glazer’s stunning Under The Skin where Scarlett Johansson’s character lures unsuspecting victims with the promise of sexual ecstasy but instead delivers a grizzly inescapable void. A beautiful opener.

In ancient Rome, a Tintinnabulum referred to a wind chime or series of bells that were put in place to ward off evil spirits. Anything nefarious therefore would certainly be banished once Tintinnabulum Key was played, thus overwhelming any personal demons to provide an aural shield of drone loveliness ala OM.

its meditative effect giving the listener a permanent sense of inner calm…

Passage appears to have a little bit more dirt under the fingernails, harsher industrial soundscapes afford for a distinctly more uncomfortable yet terrifyingly captivating experience, while Place Of Peace is a little more blissful, with nods to post-rock (Godspeed! You Black Emperor), Tim Hecker and Stars of the Lid. Considering how the planet is in a perpetual state of never-ending panic and turmoil this is exactly the kind of track you need to keep you sane, its meditative effect giving the listener a permanent sense of inner calm.

According to Wikipedia, Sheol in the Hebrew Bible is the ‘underworld place of stillness and darkness which lies after death’. As someone who’s a slight hypochondriac and nervous about what awaits us in the next life, if it’s anything like what’s being intonated by the mellow strains here, it appears I have little to nothing to worry about. Factor in Lehandy ‘Rudi’ Vaughn’s disembodied voice too and it makes for quite a comforting piece, ripe for reflection purposes.

Return is largely an atmospheric number which starts to swell in intensity around the three-minute forty mark, what with its Swans style crashing post-rock and faint traces of shoegaze. It’s possibly the most conventional (in a manner of speaking) sounding track on the album and a personal favourite making an amazing conclusion to an already impressive record.

‘The goal was to make a solid experimental record’ states McCarthy and this has been largely achieved. Whilst I’ve enjoyed Ethan‘s output over the years, it’s refreshing to hear another side to him, demonstrating that he’s not only exceptionally talented but is also very far from being a one-trick pony.

Label: Closed Casket Activities
Band Links: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Spotify | Instagram

Scribed by: Reza Mills